Middle East leaders join world in condemnation of deadly France attack

Earlier on Thursday Saudi Arabia had voiced it’s condemnation of the attack. (AFP)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Middle East leaders join world in condemnation of deadly France attack

  • Saudi Arabia had earlier condemned the attacks saying they were inconsistent with all religions
  • Pope Francis prays for the victims as Vatican says terrorism and violence should be rejected

PARIS: World leaders condemned fatal stabbings in the French city of Nice Thursday that France called an Islamist terrorist attack.
Condemnation came from US President Donald Trump, UN chief Antonio Guterres, as well as European, Arab and Israeli leaders.
“Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight,” Trump tweeted. “These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!“
One of the first to condemn was Turkey, embroiled in a row with France over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have triggered a wave of attacks against French people.
“We strongly condemn the attack committed today inside the Notre-Dame church in Nice,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said.
It expressed solidarity with France, and offered condolences to relatives of the three people killed in the attack.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also condemned the attack, while adding that “peace cannot be achieved with ugly provocation.”
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Arab and Islamic leaders drew a clear distinction between their religion and violent acts that claimed to defend it.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said it “stands as a government and people with... France in combating this hateful incident.”
Qatar voiced strong condemnation and reiterated its rejection of violence and terrorism, especially against places of worship and regardless of the motives.
Lebanese prime minister designate Saad Hariri urged Muslims “to reject this criminal act that has nothing to do with Islam or the Prophet.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the killing as “an attack on liberty. When we think of France, we think of liberty. And we stand with the people of France.”

Also read: Saudi Arabia condemns Nice church attack

European Union leaders quickly expressed solidarity with France, and pledged to confront “those that seek to incite and spread hatred.”
“I condemn the odious and brutal attack that has just taken place in Nice and I am with France with all my heart,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.
“We will remain united and determined in the face of barbarity and fanaticism.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was “deeply shaken by the brutal murders” and said “my thoughts are with the relatives of those murdered and injured. Germany stands with France at this difficult time.”
In a statement issued later by EU Council chief Charles Michel, the 27 leaders expressed solidarity with France but made no reference to the controversy over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
 




A relative of one of the victims looks on at the scene of the killings which took place inside the church. (AFP)


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte condemned a “cowardly attack” and said: “Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror. We embrace the families of the victims and our French brothers. We are united!“
Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez added: “We continue to defend freedom, our democratic values, peace and the security of our citizens.”

A harder tone came from Hungary, where populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban wrote that the attack showed clearly “that our culture, our way of life and our European values are in the crosshairs of extremist terrorism.
“We are ready to join forces in order to protect traditional European values and the traditional European way of life,” Orban added.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who previously governed with far-right ministers, called the murders in Nice “a despicable Islamist terror attack.”
“We will defend our values and European ‘way of life’ with all our might against Islamists and political Islam,” Kurz said.

Indian premier Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, strongly condemned the “heinous attack in Nice” and added that his country also “stands with France in the fight against terrorism.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “appalled” at the “barbaric attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica,” he tweeted in English and French.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance.”

Pope Francis prayed for the victims as the Vatican said that “terrorism and violence can never be accepted.
“Today’s attack has sown death in a place of love and consolation,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.
The pontiff urged people in France, a multi-cultural society, to “unite to combat evil with good.”
During talks with the Italian foreign minister, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned: “The attempt to foment war between religions is inconceivable.
“There is no war between Christianity and Islam, or between Judaism and Islam and we must be sure that no one is allowed to make that happen.”


Internally displaced Afghans look to foreign donors for help

Updated 25 November 2020

Internally displaced Afghans look to foreign donors for help

  • UN warns of ‘grave consequences’ for Kabul if officials at global conference cut aid

KABUL: As they huddle around a makeshift fire a few meters away from their tents, a group of men, displaced by decades of war in Afghanistan, recall the number of times former and current government officials pledged to provide basic amenities to millions of refugees during routine visits to their camp.

One man in the group, 42-year-old Shah Tawoos, points at a dirty stream of water which is making its way beneath the rotten tent – his “home” for more than a decade.

“Look at the humidity inside and the mud outside the tent, even dogs can’t and won’t bear this, but we have nowhere to go,” Tawoos told Arab News.

The tent is one of many located in the Charahi Qambar (CQ) camp, on the western fringes of Kabul, where thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) like Tawoos are denied their rights and are continuously threatened with deportation.

“Ministers and other authorities came and went, pledging to help us with houses, but nothing has happened. We do not know where the government spends the national budget and foreign aid,” he said.

According to the Internal Monitoring Displacement Centre (IMDC), the CQ is one of 47 camps that house nearly 3 million IDPs, who had their lives upended either by natural disasters or a fresh bout of violence since the Taliban’s ouster in the US-led invasion in 2001.

The displacements were triggered by fighting and attacks involving the Taliban, government and US-led forces, Daesh and other nonstate armed groups.

“In the first half of 2020, there were 117,000 new displacements associated with conflict and violence and 30,000 as a result of disasters,” according to the IMDC.

The CQ camp is filled with refugees from Afghanistan’s south where, according to the United Nations, more than 5,000 families have fled the fighting between the Taliban insurgents and Afghan government forces, specifically in the Helmand province.

The conditions at these camps are deplorable, with IDPs residing in tents either donated by local or foreign relief agencies or in small mud houses built using their resources.

The tents are rotting. Their condition, residents say, gets worse in summer when heavy rain and snow weakens the fabric, resulting in gaping holes.

“Our tents become infested with mosquitoes in the summer heat and unbearably cold in winter times,” Rahmat Gul, another resident of the camp, said.

He laments about the lack of electricity and water supply and highlights the plight of thousands of children who have no access to education or, often, food.

There are other issues as well, Gul says, such as unemployment and poverty, forcing some men and women to beg to make ends meet.

The camp first attracted attention in 2012 after at least 15 IDP children froze to death due to the harsh winter conditions.

The displacements were the topic of discussion once again during a virtual donor conference in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday where ministers from nearly 70 countries and officials of humanitarian organisations spoke about funding cuts and tighter restrictions on vital aid for Afghanistan, marking further challenges for a nation that is preparing for an early withdrawal of US-led foreign troops and grappling with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We want the participants (in Geneva) to act with caution, take firm measures for accountability and transparency from our government. Otherwise we fear that just like in the past, much of the aid will be squandered either by foreign contractors or officials in our government,” Gul said.

Ahead of the conference which began on Monday, President Ashraf Ghani said he hoped for it to generate billions of dollars of aid.

“The outcome of this pledging conference will heavily influence the country’s future development and our path towards self-reliance and peace,” Ghani said during the weekend in Kabul.

It follows a similar event in Belgium in 2016 where donors pledged to extend $15 billion in aid to Afghanistan for the next five years.

However, finance ministry spokesman Shamrooz Khan Masjidi was unable to comment on how much of the pledged aid had been disbursed.

“We would like a major part of the aid to be channeled through government budgets,” he said.

He added that the focus of all future aid would be on building infrastructure, repatriation of refugees and aiding the war displaced.

“Kabul had fulfilled the benchmarks set by donors for the last conference with regards to combating corruption and was open for accountability for the cash it has spent,” he said.

The Geneva meeting comes amid a deadlock in the talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar, that have been going on since Sept. 12, as well as rising discontent with Ghani’s government at home and abroad due to soaring corruption, weak governance and the alleged squandering of state resources.

A recent report released by US watchdog SIGAR said: “The Afghan government makes paper reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than concrete actions that would reduce corruption, such as arresting powerful actors.”

Following the SIGAR report and ahead of the Geneva conference, Ghani’s government ordered the formation of another commission to fight graft.

However, Sayed Ikram Afzali, executive director of Integrity Watch, said that the government had “no will for fighting corruption and resorts to symbolic works for drawing the attention at international conferences.”

A survey conducted by the Afghan Civil Society Forum on Sunday said that 90 percent of participants believed that “the government is corrupt.”

Afghanistan’s last permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Mahmoud Saikal, said on Monday: “In this time of high corruption, it is extremely important donors demand strong accountability from those who claim to represent our people.”

It’s a thought echoed by UN Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. He also warned of “grave consequences” if the world turned away from Afghanistan.

“Failure on either account would see Afghanistan slide backwards with disastrous consequences, including further displacement, possibly on a larger scale…” he said in a statement on Sunday.